Sepp Kuss takes stage 15 of Tour de France 2021, Valverde second and Pogacar again unbeatable
The Tour de France 2021 reached the Pyrenees and its highest peak of the edition to the glory of a Sepp Kuss who was to strike a decisive attack on the ascent to Beixalis. Pogacar is even more the leader after once again proving to be unbeatable and responding with ease to all the attacks of his rivals. If this Tour was already decided, it has now been sentenced.
The 2021 Tour de France reaches its highest point on stage 15
Mountain stage with a route featuring non-categorized climbs such as the col de Fourtou (km 18) and where the riders are going to meet the ceiling of this Tour de France 2021 when they reach the top of the Port d'Envalira and its 2408 meters (10.7 km at 5.6%) at kilometer 146.7. A total of 193 kilometers between Céret and Andorra with three first and one second pass that will be vital for the fight for the king of the mountains polka dot jersey and where Pogacar could seal, if not already sealed, his second overall victory in the Tour de France. A great stage by all means.
The first to make a move was the shark Nibali but his attack was quickly neutralized by the peloton, the Belgian Thomas De Gendt took advantage of that moment to counterattack and open a gap of about 15 seconds. The Lotto rider looked motivated and led a breakaway that was joined by Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Aurélien Paret Peintre (Ag2r-Citröen), Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) and Sergio Henao (Qhubeka-NextHash).
With about 150 kilometers to go a chasing group would join the escapees forming a solid breakaway of 32 riders including names like Nairo Quintana, Van Aert, Valverde, Alaphilippe, Ion Izagirre, Castroviejo, Michael Woods, Mohoric.... The peloton, with the UAE riders pulling, was about 4 minutes behind.
Although the head of the race was broken by a couple of breakaway attempts, the group of 32 riders got back together and widened their gap over the peloton. With 125 kilometers to go, the gap was over 8 minutes. The peloton was calm, but there was still a lot to fight for and decide.
The first riders to cross the bonus intermediate sprint in Olette (kilometer 66.9) were Michael Matthews (20 points), De Gendt (17 points), Ballerini (15 points), Mohoric (13 points) and Armirail (11 points). The peloton would reach this point 8 minutes 41 seconds behind the breakaway. With this points split in the sprint, Michael Matthews is now 72 points behind Mark Cavendish in the fight for the green jersey.
Nacer Bouhanni abandoned after passing the intermediate sprint point 20 minutes after Matthews. The French rider was affected by the big crash of stage 13.
The first to summit the Montée de Mont-Louis, a first 8.4 kilometers at 5.7%, were: Wout Poels (10 points), van Aert (8 points) and Michael Woods (6 points). Nairo didn't even seem interested in fighting for the points in the king of the mountain classification. After this point Woods still leads the fight for the polka dot jersey with one point over Poels and 9 over van Aert. The peloton was to cross Mont-Louis 9 minutes and 20 seconds behind the breakaway.
Van Aert was the first to go over the Puymorens pass. A 2nd category located at kilometer 133.1 with 5.8 kilometers of uphill and an average inclination of 4.7%. The Belgian went in followed by Poels and Woods. With two more passes to go before the finish line, the fight for the polka dot jersey couldn't be closer and both Woods and Poels have 62 points ahead of van Aert's 56. The peloton would pass Puymorens with a gap of 8'25" after a huge effort by Richie Porte.
With hardly any break it was time to climb the Port d'Envalira, a first category pass that with 2408 meters above sea level is placed as the top of this Tour de France and 7th highest pass in the history of the French round. A place that undoubtedly brings back good memories to Alejandro Valverde, who won here a mythical stage of the 2003 Vuelta a España.
With a kilometer and a half to go to the top of Envalira, the Colombian Nairo Quintana launched a hard attack with which he broke the breakaway and managed to open a gap. Quintana went through the pass alone and gained 15 seconds on van Aert, Poels and Woods, who were the next to cross Envalira, sharing the juicy points in the king of the mountain classification. The peloton also broke and a group was formed in which were the best classified in the general classification, including of course Pogacar.
The downhill of the Envalira would cause Nairo to be picked up and a lead group of 17 riders was formed with Valverde and Izagirre among them. Pogacar's group was just over 5 minutes behind the lead group and Guillaume Martin, second overall, lost pace on the downhill and was unable to catch Pogacar.
With 21 kilometers to go and climbing the last pass of the day, Nairo attacked again with an almost immediate response from Alejandro Valverde and Sepp Kuss who neutralized his breakaway attempt. Valverde was showing very good legs, but it was going to be the American Kuss who opened some gap facing the col de Beixalis (PB, 1st) with 6.4 kilometers and a brutal slope at 8.5% average.
With 20 kilometers to go, Carapaz accelerated and tested Pogacar, but the Slovenian quickly got on his wheel followed by Uran and Vingegaard. Pogacar made it clear that it was not going to be easy to get away from him today.
Kuss crowned col de Beixalis with about 20 seconds over Alejandro Valverde. There was a very long and very technical downhill that would decide the stage victory. Behind, Vingegaard, Uran and Carapaz were still testing a Pogacar who was holding firm. Kelderman and Mas were also part of Pogacar's group. After the points at the Beixalis pass the polka dot jersey went to Poels and his 74 points over Michael Woods' 66.
Sepp Kuss attacks in Beixalis and takes stage 15 of Tour de France 2021, Valverde second
Last kilometers and the great downhill of Sepp Kuss after his attack in Beixalis was going to be worth him the stage victory in this Tour de France 2021. Alejandro Valverde had to settle for second place.
Pogacar was unbeatable and responded with great solvency to all the attacks of his main rivals for the general classification. If there was any doubt that this Tour is also for him, the Slovenian once again dispelled them with ease.
- Sepp Kuss
- Alejandro Valverde
- Wout Poels
- Ion Izagirre
- Ruben Guerreiro
- Pogacar, T. - UAE | 62:07:18
- Uran, R. - EF Nippo | +5:18
- Vingegard, J. - Jumbo Visma | +5:32